Communication and Interacting with Your Autistic Child

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Summation

  • A communication breakdown can not only lead to discomfort, sadness, and a lack of closeness, but it can ultimately lead to a worsening of circumstances or a complete breakdown of the relationships in question.
  • Add to that being a child who would already be learning these cues and communication structures if you did not have autism, and you have a lot of challenges to overcome.
  • Nowhere can the frustrations of incomplete communication be felt than in a relationship with a person on the Autism spectrum.

Is there anything more frustrating in the world than not being able to communicate or be well understood? This is something universally felt. A communication breakdown can not only lead to discomfort, sadness, and a lack of closeness, but it can ultimately lead to a worsening of circumstances or a complete breakdown of the relationships in question. Nowhere can the frustrations of incomplete communication be felt than in a relationship with a person on the Autism spectrum. There are many places, such as your local autism services center, where you can go for help with this, but we also have some information you might need right here.

Why Is Communication Difficult?

Those on the autism spectrum can differ from others in a number of ways. It is called a spectrum because there are so many different kinds of autism, from very manageable to quite severe. People who have autism differ from the rest of us in a number of ways:

  • They may experience anxiety or discomfort in unfamiliar situations
  • They may find loud noises, crowds, or bright lights overstimulating and upsetting
  • They may find it difficult to understand the thoughts and feelings of others
  • They may find it difficult to interact with others
  • They may take longer than others to accept and understand new information
  • They may not understand facial or nonverbal cues like smiling or frowning
  • They may not be able to make eye contact
  • They may want to stick to rigid routines and get upset when these are disrupted
  • They may speak in a flat, monotone voice, or they may not speak at all
  • They may engage in repetitive behaviors like flapping their hands, rocking back and forth, or spinning

Though these are common symptoms, each person with autism is completely different, and you will need to tailor your approach to their condition. Imagine that you are experiencing any one of these symptoms alone or even all of them at once: I’m sure you would find it a little challenging to communicate too. Add to that being a child who would already be learning these cues and communication structures if you did not have autism, and you have a lot of challenges to overcome.

Communication and Interaction with Autistic Children

While there is no rulebook for communicating and interacting with your autistic child, there are a few general tips that are helpful to keep in mind.

  1. Remember to stay patient. Children with Autism take longer than usual to process information. Move at their pace rather than expecting them to move at yours.
  2. Start teaching the child how to express any anger they may feel without becoming aggressive. They need to be told not to keep their angry feelings in; teach them a healthy way of expressing them.
  3. Be persistent and resilient. We know it can be a challenge that takes the wind out of your sails, but your child is not trying to hurt your feelings; they are simply making their way through uncharted territory.
  4. Stay as positive as you can. Children with ASD respond well to positive reinforcement rather than punishment or harsh words.
  5. Ignore any behavior that is an extreme irritation or designed to get extra attention. Autistic children may behave badly in an attempt to get your focus entirely on them. The best way to prevent this is not to give in to it. In the same way, you should remember and reward good behavior.
  6. Do not make assumptions about what your child can understand or do. Each child is different and will have their own unique abilities.
  7. Interact using physical activity. Because autistic children have short attention spans, you should keep them active to keep them engaged. Physical activity also allows them to let off steam and feel calmer.
  8. Be as affectionate as your child needs you to be. Autistic children often need more physical attention than others do. Remember to respect their boundaries and never force affection where it is not wanted.
  9. Many children on the spectrum might have trouble sharing their thoughts and emotions, so lead by example., Share yours with them freely, so they know it is good to do the same.
  10. Let your child take the lead and learn from them. Looking at the world through their eyes might show you something you’ve never seen before.
  11. Keep your chin up and look after yourself. This can be a lot for a parent or two parents to handle. It’s okay to feel disheartened sometimes, but try not to let your child see this. It is essential to take care of yourself so that your cup is full to pour out to your children. There are support groups and online forums you can turn to for help.
  12. Believe in your child. Though things might sometimes seem like they will never be easy, remember they are a new person learning many things for the first time, and they still have growing to do.

Final Word

These tips will help you find your way through the maze of childhood, hand in hand with your autistic child.  Remember that you are not alone; many other parents are on this journey with you. Stay positive, and believe in yourself and your child—great things can happen.

 

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